The Original Scene
The Re-Creation Scene
Our Cop Car
Where You Can See The Cop Car

Part II Part III

The Re-Creation of the Cop Car Destruction Scene - Part I
A Tribute to Henry Travers and Manuel Padilla, Jr.

Every American Graffiti fan knows this hilarious scene all too well and almost from the time we formed Cruisin’ The Boulevard in 2005, we have dreamed of re-creating it. Well, our dream finally come true around 5am on Thursday, May 15, 2008.

For those of you who don’t already know, Henry Travers was the film’s transportation manager. He was the “car boss” and was responsible for having all of the specialty cars used in the film built according to George Lucas’ specifications. He also drove the Deuce and the ’55 Chevy in the drag racing scenes. He even stored the featured cars at his home in Sonoma, California during the daytime and then had them transported over to Petaluma each evening for the filming.

It was our honor to become good friends with both Henry and his wife, Jackie and if it weren’t for the fact that Henry took a detour down that endless main drag in the great beyond back in August, 2006, he’d have been right here with us helping to make this event happen. After all, it was Henry who set up the 1961 Ford Galaxie 4-door sedan for its destruction in the movie!

Manuel Padilla, Jr. portrayed Carlos, the shortest of the three Pharaohs in the film. His stature was the only thing small about him for he was a kind and gentle man with a BIG heart of gold, and we were so fortunate to have him here in Petaluma at both of our 2006 and 2007 American Graffiti Salutes. Regretfully, he passed away suddenly on January 29, 2008.  So Henry and Manuel, this was for you!

You may be familiar with Mythbusters episode where they attempted to find out if the rear axle could really be pulled out from beneath a car without special modifications. Of course, they found out it wasn’t possible. Where did Mr. Lucas come up with the idea to include this scene in the film? We’ve received correspondence from people who have told us it was done elsewhere before the filming, suggesting that this was the source of his inspiration, but only George knows for sure. Someday maybe he’ll share it with us.

So, how do you pull the rear end out of a ’61 Ford Cop Car? Well, first you crawl under the car and make some modifications to the manner in which the axle attaches to the frame. You replace the gas tank with a small one-gallon tank hidden under the hood and of course, you modify the drive train just a bit.

Next you get a great big 10 wheel tow truck, the kind you see hauling big rigs. It goes at the back of an empty lot, hidden in the shadows so the cameras don’t see it and you block all of the wheels to help keep the truck from moving. Then attach one end of a length of heavy duty steel cable to the truck and the other to the axle of the cop car. Finally, find a donut shop, grab a cop, put him in the driver’s seat and have some clown speed by and yell out “Stand by for justice”. That’s all there is to it…well, not quite, but you get the idea! That’s the way we did it on May 15, 2008 except for the donut shop cop. Art Mossi was our stunt driver.

Apart from re-creating this scene, what really makes it unique and very special is that it took place in the exact same empty lot were it was originally filmed in the summer of 1972. How cool is that! Thanks to Richard Villa of Al Villa Builder, San Rafael, California and his brother-in-law, Jim Warren of Redwood Sign Company, Redding, California, even the Jerry’s Cherries Used Car Lot façade was re-created in all its glory!

You can find out all about our cop car by clicking here.

WHAT HAPPENED? Now that you know a little bit of history and all about our cop car,
CLICK HERE to read what happened on that unbelievably warm Petaluma morning.